Holding meetings is a whole new ballgame these days. You’re less likely to have every meeting participant in the same room at the same time. Instead, it’s almost guaranteed that people will beam in from other parts of the country—or the world. But there’s more than one way to hold a hybrid meeting. Here, we explore real-time vs. asynchronous hybrid meetings and the pros and cons of each type.
What Is a Hybrid Meeting?
In a hybrid meeting, some participants are present in the meeting room, and some are attending virtually. It’s not a fully live meeting, and it’s not a fully virtual meeting either—it’s a hybrid of the two.
Hybrid meetings are increasingly popular in the workplace. Many employers have adopted policies that allow employees to work from home permanently. Many others have opted to allow employees to work remotely for part of the week, with scheduled in-office time. As a result, hybrid meetings are now fairly commonplace—and it’s likely they’ll stay that way.
The hybrid format also remains popular for conferences, summits, and other industry meetings. These types of events— that focus on presenting and discussing information and ideas—are well-suited to the hybrid format. And again, it’s likely that the hybrid format will continue to be used for many of these types of meetings in the future.
Real-Time Vs. Asynchronous Meetings: What’s the Difference?
One of the main challenges of a hybrid meeting is facilitating communication. This is partly because while in-person communication happens in real-time, virtual communication is often (not always) asynchronous.
As the name suggests, this form of communication takes place in real time. There are minimal or no delays between sending, receiving, and responding to information. The only delay is the one required to process received information and form a reply.
This doesn’t mean real-time communication is necessarily tech-free. For instance, while talking in person is a real-time communication method, so is talking on the phone.
The hallmark of real-time communication is that it allows for a continual back-and-forth exchange between two or more participants.
When communication is asynchronous, it means the sending and receiving of information is disrupted by time delays. For instance, email is an asynchronous method of communicating because of the delay between sending an email and receiving a reply.
Some kinds of communication fall into both categories, depending on context. For instance, an instant messaging app can be either real-time or asynchronous, depending on the behavior of the participants.
Real-Time Vs. Asynchronous Meetings
How does this concept of real-time versus asynchronous communication apply to meetings? Imagine a meeting where one group member gives a presentation in front of the other members.
Real-time: In a real-time meeting, a presentation is given as normal to a live or virtual audience. Afterwards, the group spends time discussing it before the meeting breaks up.
Asynchronous: The presenter creates a digital version of their presentation and makes it available for viewing. The rest of the group views the presentation virtually, at their convenience, and has a group discussion via a Teams channel.
Essentially, an asynchronous meeting is one where people choose when to access meeting content. This format can work both for virtual and hybrid meetings by providing digital content on-demand.
Many organizations have used this strategy over the last couple years, including for industry conferences and meetings. For instance, the American Academy of PAs created an on-demand conference in 2020, with a digital collection of education videos that virtual attendees could access 24/7. The format has been successful enough that the AAPA is still using it in 2022.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Real-Time Vs. Asynchronous Hybrid Meetings?
Real-Time Hybrid Meetings
- Pro: The real-time format comes naturally to most people because it’s what they’re used to.
- Pro: Real-time meetings generally allow for faster decision-making.
- Pro: Real-time is better when there’s an emergency to deal with, or if there are sensitive topics are on the agenda. Handling these issues in real time means they’re dealt with quickly, rather than potentially drawn out over hours or days. It also ensures everyone’s on the same page by the end of the meeting.
- Con: Not everyone performs at their best at the faster pace of a real-time meeting.
- Con: Real-time meetings can force employees to context-switch, which may reduce their productivity.
- Con: Scheduling real-time meetings isn’t always easy, even when some people are attending remotely. Remote attendees in different time zones may also complicate scheduling.
Asynchronous Hybrid Meetings
- Pro: Since asynchronous discussions usually happen in Teams or a similar platform, they’re automatically recorded, and are often searchable too.
- Pro: Employees are less likely to be forced to context-switch to participate.
- Pro: The less personal format can encourage more reticent people to contribute.
- Pro: Participants have time to process complex information and ideas and to carefully consider what they want to say.
- Pro: There are no scheduling difficulties, since people can participate at any time that’s convenient to them.
- Con: People respond and contribute at different paces. This can make it harder to facilitate a group discussion.
- Con: Asynchronous discussions tend to be less spontaneous. This can negatively impact team synergy because often it’s when people are bouncing ideas around in real-time that they get the best results.
When to Use Real-Time vs. Asynchronous Hybrid Meetings
Both real-time and asynchronous hybrid meetings have their place. Each has a specific set of pros and cons that make them useful in different situations. Use them strategically to maximize the pros and reduce the impact of the cons.
Real-time: Schedule real-time meetings when your team needs to discuss sensitive subjects or when options must be discussed thoroughly and decisions made quickly. To reduce the potential impact of context-switching, try to schedule real-time meetings at the start or end of the workday.
Asynchronous: Asynchronous meetings are ideal for those times when your team is discussing complex subjects that may take time to resolve. But watch out that discussions don’t drag on for longer than they need to.
Real-Time vs. Asynchronous Hybrid Meetings: Keep Them Both in Your Toolkit
Both real-time and asynchronous hybrid meetings have their place. Each format has some specific benefits that make it useful in certain situations. Keep both these formats in your toolkit, and use them in ways that maximize their benefits.